The Darker Side of the Academy: Letter

Open letter read in front of the office of the rector of the Akademie der bildenden K√ľnste at the end of the initiative of the Darker Side of the Academy. For the abolition of discriminatory structures against students from non-EU countries and the establishment of a facility for their advice and support, 2011

Migrants from non-EU countries are heavily discriminated against on different levels of society in Austria, including the education sector. Ranging from non-transparent and long-lasting registration processes to the residence 'permission' with its intensified regulations and administrative practices; to the exclusions from the labour market and scholarship system; to the charging of tuition fees; extending to ubiquitous everyday racism. These are all measures that manifest the racial division in the education system that affects students from non-EU countries.

In the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, there are facilities that focus more or less on dealing with issues of racial discrimination, such as the Working Group for Equal Opportunities or the International Office of the Austrian Students Union along with a variety of self-organised groups and individuals. Regardless, the Academy as – according to how it represents itself – a critical and progressive educational institution, is no exception in the racist reality that students have to cope with.

Non-EU students – unlike the majority of their colleagues – have to pay tuition fees, and at least partially co-finance the ongoing operation of the institution, although at comparable institutions there are internal arrangements for the reimbursement of tuition fees in order to overcome these discriminatory divisions between students.

More and more, students from non-EU countries depend on the informal assistance of dedicated staff members from the institution, who are not skilled nor paid for it, or on their own networks of friends and colleagues when seeking help and advice in order to deal with all of the bureaucratic hurdles that they have to face in the course of their studies.

All in all, not a single official facility exists at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna that concentrates on this topic and possesses enough knowledge in order to stand by the affected students as an advisory and supportive capacity.

A facility which:
Gives legal advice to students from non-EU countries during their application process and during their studies,
provides a network with institutions that offer legal assistance to migrants e.g. through informative events,
collects the latest information about the regulations concerning residence and studying in Austria and circulates it in different languages,
supports the students in their communication with the authorities, networks with groups within the Academy that push for anti-racist and anti-discriminatory practices,
and will be the first point of contact for students affected by racist discrimination.

We demand a stop to the discriminatory structures at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna – starting with a new tuition fee system, which is equal for all students and make hereby an application for the establishment of a designated facility for advice and support for students from non-EU countries.